Friday, 2 December 2016

Oxtail soup ... the ultimate winter warmer

It's turned really chilly here in London. The days are bright and clear, with blue skies and sunshine, but once the sun goes down it gets s-o-o-o cold.

At this time of the year, as the nights draw and the cold strengthens, I turn to hearty food: soups and stews are the things I want to cook most. And there's nothing better on a cold winter's night than a steaming bowl of oxtail soup. It is the ultimate, luscious, warming, comfort food. Mine gets cooked all day in the slow cooker, filling the house with its tantalising smell. By nightfall the meat is falling off the bone, and the liquid is a rich, deep chocolatey brown ... ambrosia in a soup bowl!

Given that there are only three bears who usually sit down at my table every night, this recipe has been calculated to feed three people. You can big it up if you've got more folk to feed. Just read on for my recipe:

Oxtail soup

Friday, 25 November 2016

Festibear ...

Okay, he's arrived a bit late. I'd intended to have him off the needles in time for Festiwool, but, with one thing and another, life got in the way and poor Festibear missed his launch date. Still, better late than never, as they say. He can be a Christmas bear. I'm sure there are lots of little people up and down the land who'd happily give him a home for the holidays.

He's knit in the round (mostly) from my own-label Costa Brava Knitting Splatter dash Merino double knitting wool on 3.00 mm/  double-pin needles. You'll need about 70 g/ 140 metres for a bear of these proportions (he stands 30 cm/ 12" tall). In addition to the wool you'll need a circle of felt (diameter 9 cm/ 3.5") for inside his head to hold his facial features securely in place, some toy stuffing and a pair of 6 mm safety eyes. You may even like to push the boat out and treat him to a nice length of velvet ribbon, just for decency's sake so that he's not a naked bear ... .

Anyway, whichever way you want to dress him up, please read on for the pattern.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ealing's swamp cypress ...

Today I'm loving a swamp Cypress - native of a mangrove swamp in the Florida Everglades, - that's made its home in Walpole Park. Who'd have thought? A swamp cypress? In Ealing?

Walpole Park, Ealing, London, W5
Ealing's Swamp Cypress

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Knitting History Forum ...

Yesterday I went for the first time to a meeting of the Knitting History Forum. I'm an avid knitter and a keen social historian, so it was always guaranteed to be something that I would find interesting. What I wasn't prepared for was the colourful cast of characters, with strong and very well-informed opinions, who made up the audience. Yes, the speakers were interesting, but the folk scattered around the room were brilliant. They listened attentively, needles clicking as the speakers talked, and then asked incisive questions, and chipped in with additional information from learned papers and books that they'd written on related themes themselves.

Here in London I'm an enthusiastic lecture attendee, but I've never been part of an audience in which every other person brandished knitting needles as they listened. Of course it makes total sense that they should be multitasking in this way. Indeed educational psychologists often suggest that having something to fiddle with whilst you listen helps the information go in, and so many of us (self included) enjoy our favourite television programmes curled up on the sofa working as we watch.

We had lectures about Frisian lace making, the publication of knitting and crochet patterns in northern Europe from 1790 to 1870 and debunking the myths around Shetland lace making. The speakers included a museum curator from the Fries Museum in the Netherlands and a clutch of academics.

Listening in the audience were no lesser authorities on the subject that Professor Sandy Black of the London College of Fashion and author of (amongst other books) the wonderful Knitting: Fashion, History Craft, which is one of my favourite reference books, Dr Jane Malcolm-Davies, author of the Tudor Tailor, Dr Angharad Thomas of Knitting Gloves, who is the Textiles Archivist at the Knitting & Crochet Guild and Joyce Meader of the Historic Knit.

We had been invited to watch two recent documentaries on the history of knitting to which several members of the audience had contributed before attending, so that we could talk about them in the discussion section. I found them both interesting, and recommend them to you if you've got an idle hour to fill over the course of the next few days.

Fabric of Britain - available on BBC iPlayer until Thursday, 24th November.

The Secret History of Knitting - available on YouTube.

All the best for now,

Bonny x 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Thank you to all my lovely Festiwool customers ...

It was a truly splendid little fair with lots of lovely, friendly people - both buying and selling. I'm always impressed by how nice yarn-lovers are. I know it sounds schmaltzy and trite, and that there are always exceptions to every rule, but in my experience - gleaned from days on my feet talking to the passing public at yarn fairs, and weeks of my life given over to knitting retreats - I've come to the firm view that a love of all things woolly is, of itself, a pretty good character reference.